Looks like Minnesota will get its special election after all. More than two weeks after his Democratic colleagues in the Senate pushed him to issue an ambiguous resignation speech in the Senate, Al Franken has set the date for his departure. If you bet on Franken unresigning, get ready to hear from your bookie:
U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., plans to resign from Congress on Jan. 2, a spokesman said Wednesday.
Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, who Gov. Mark Dayton appointed to replace Franken, will be sworn in the next day.
So much for the latest round of Senate Democrat remorse, eh? They won’t have Al to kick around anymore. However, the question may be whether Al does some kicking at his colleagues on his way out the door. On Twitter, Franken seemed to hint that he’d have a few things to say on his way out the door:
I'm taking to the Senate floor to give the first of what will be a series of final speeches, this one focused on my work to improve education on behalf of Minnesotans and all Americans. https://t.co/X06tvNgCfe
— Sen. Al Franken (@SenFranken) December 20, 2017
The link goes to a 35-minute speech Franken gave on … something. It’s arguable whether anyone paid much attention to Franken’s Senate speeches before his resignation speech on December 11. Now that he’s going out the door, it’s even more arguable whether anyone would bother paying attention to them now.
As Shannon Doherty told Jason Lee in Mallrats, “If you think I’m gonna suffer any of your [expletive] with a smile now that we’re broken up, you’re in for some serious [expletive] disappointment!”
Besides, the Senate will go into recess sometime soon, after Congress passes another short-term continuing resolution to keep the government in operation. Until then, that topic will get all of the attention, and after that, everyone goes home.
Those who owe bookies some hard cash may still argue that this is still not a resignation … and they’d be correct, technically speaking. The statement committed Franken to submitting it on January 2nd, but that’s no more binding than Franken’s December 11th speech. Until Franken actually tenders the resignation, he can change his mind, as I wrote in my column at The Week, but it’s pretty unlikely — especially given the nature of the most recent precedent:
If he decides to “unresign,” there would be little standing in his way. A resignation is effective when it is formally made and accepted, and not until then. Even public statements promising to submit a resignation carry no procedural weight, a point that some critics noted when wondering whether Franken might reverse himself if Moore got seated after the election.
Franken has precedent for a reversal, although he might think twice about invoking it. In September 2007, then-Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) declared he would resign after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor in Minnesota. Police had caught him soliciting another male for sexual activity in a Minneapolis airport restroom, and ended pleading guilty to disturbing the peace. Just three days later, Craig reversed himself, insisting that he wanted to fight for his reputation in an Ethics Committee probe. He ended up serving his full term, although Republicans nominated James Risch to replace him in 2008.
It seems doubtful that Franken will rescind his resignation. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has already nominated his lieutenant governor, Tina Smith, as Franken’s replacement; Franken and his staff have begun the transition. A reversal at this point would embarrass the state party and perhaps make Franken even more persona non grata than he already is.
Still, it’s not as though Franken doesn’t have his defenders. On Change.org, three petitions for Franken to stay have a combined total of 132,000 signatures, albeit with some strange claims to go along with them. One, created on the same day that over 30 Senate Democrats ganged up on Franken and demanded his resignation, claims that it’s all a Republican conspiracy:
WE believe that Senator Al Franken has been “swift-boated” by Republican forces banking on the #MeToo frenzy to stifle thoughtful discourse and proper evaluation of the skinny allegations of sexual harassment made against him.
That claim accounts for 34,281 of the signatures. The main petition (73,333 signatures) has a better argument: “There is a difference between abuse and a mistake.” Franken seems to have made several “mistakes,” however, and forced kisses and a cruel photographic stunt seems to edge more into the “abuse” category. YMMV.
At any rate, the die has already been cast. 2018 will be the Year Without Al Franken, and we’ll see whether anyone misses him when he’s gone … or even notices.